UK Premiere: Terminal Stage – a Hungarian documentary on the last days.  

Categories: Care and In The Media.

Hungarian restauranteur Herczeg Tamás, the subject of the short film Terminal Stage, tries to engineer around end-of-life drama. Facing his own death from advanced cancer in his mid-60s, he moves himself from the family home to a hospice. “I plan my illness like I plan my menus”, he deadpans to camera from his hospital bed.

At first, his daughter is enraged by her father’s decision.

Ultimately, though, as the family grieve together with the towering figure not yet completely removed from their lives, they arrive at a collective acceptance of this most inevitable part of life.

A death accepted – and intimately recorded by directors Ilona Gaal and Balázs Wizner – elides into a life celebrated. Elisabeth Pisani wrote these sentences in the Lancet journal in her review of the ongoing 2022 Global Health Film Festival, in London. And indeed, with Terminal Stage the directors send very important messages about death and about dying, ruining some taboos which make people afraid of the last period of life.

Shooting the last three days of the protagonist, they confute the thesis that at the end of life there is nothing else, just pain and sadness.

Tamás has a developed sense of humor and his family members don’t look away shyly, no, they laugh loudly at his deathbed. Second, Tamás is completely conscious till the last hours, though he is on palliative medicines.

A documentary is the best form to show because you can see with your own eyes, that medicines don’t make terminal-stage cancer patients an unconscious plant-like creatures.

The film was shot in Budapest Hospice House, the inpatient ward of Hungarian Hospice Foundation, a 30-year-old institution, which is an outstanding actor of the European, mostly Central European hospice movement.

The co-director, Ilona Gaal spent a lot of time at the bedsides of dying persons in Budapest Hospice House, and being a journalist before, she together with Balázs Wizner who has great experience making documentaries, could find a very sensitive way to show such an intimate period of life without being naturalistic or slushy.

The whole family of the protagonist is worth to get know. At the end of the film, the daughter of Tamás tells the story of the very last minutes to the camera as it happened. It is a simple and pure monolog like it were in an Ingmar Bergman movie.

You can watch the film through the homepage of the Global Health Film Festival ( on 29th November, 19.00 (GMT). Daily live-streamed screenings and discussions until Dec. 4. 2022.

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